Exhibition Journey of a Bon Vivant will be shown from 26 April to 22 June in the Upper Gallery of the Mūkusala Art Salon.
Having acquired a doctor's diploma, the Riga-born Baltic German Nikolaus von Himsel (1729–1764) set off on a European journey, as was customary among the educated citizenry of his time. His experiences over the period of five years are recorded in journals, gathering impressions on the achievements of science and medicine, collectors and their cabinets, the finer aspects of social life and even culinary details.
On this journey, Himsel is a bon vivant in the broadest sense of the word. He not only savours and comments upon the variety of European eating cultures, but also tastes the goods accessible to the wealthier part of the society of his time – free movement, refined cultural life as well as the opportunity to build an Enlightenment model of universal, unified and intelligible world in the microcosm of a scholar's cabinet with the help of collecting objects of nature, art, science and exotica.
Upon his return to Riga, the objects acquired during the trip expand the cabinet of curiosities collection already accumulated by his forebears. Following Himsel's premature death in 1773, in accordance with his bequest to the city of Riga, the first public museum in the Baltics is born – Himsel Museum. Today, objects from its collection can be found in the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, Latvian Museum of Natural History, Latvian National Museum of Art and Pauls Stradins Museum for History of Medicine. Important documents about the Martini-Himsel family are held by the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books of the Academic Library of the University of Latvia and Latvian State Historical Archives.
A symbolic selection of the Riga-based Nikolaus von Himsel's multi-faceted collection is reassembled in the exhibition Journey of a Bon Vivant, recreating the aura of Enlightenment's universal museum. The exhibition's title refers not only to an enjoyment of gastronomic nature, but in a broader sense points to the excitement of travel, seeing the world and collecting.
The exhibition includes works and objects from the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books of the Academic Library of the University of Latvia, Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation, Latvian Museum of Natural History, Latvian National Museum of Art, Pauls Stradins Museum for History of Medicine as well as the Zuzāns Collection.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of events.
Exhibition curators: Līga Lindenbauma, Raivis Sīmansons, Ineta Zelča Sīmansone
Scientific consultants: Dr.hist. Edgars Ceske, Dr.philol. Aija Taimiņa, Dr.art. Baiba Vanaga
Exhibition design: Daniela Treija
Graphic design: Madara Krieviņa
The exhibition is made in collaboration with think tank Creative Museum.
1. Journey of a Bon Vivant. Illustration: Madara Krieviņa
2. Nikolaus von Himsel (1729–1764). A drawing after a portrait of Nikolaus von Himsel by an unknown artist made in 1765. The original is held in the collection of the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation.